Great Escapes

European Travel Blog


Top 10 eats in Cologne, Germany

If you’re looking for some culinary inspiration during a trip to Cologne, or want to know some of the best eateries the city has to offer, dive into our top ten eats and discover where you can get a great burger, a traditional bratwurst, a delicious local beer and much, much more…

Bei Oma Kleinmann

With a busy and bustling atmosphere, this restaurant is a great place to visit if you’re looking to dine on traditional German schnitzel – and lots of it!

Zülpicher Str. 9
50674 Köln
Phone:  +49 221 232346


Image credit: Larry Hoffman, Flickr

Image credit: Larry Hoffman, Flickr    


Die Fette Kuh

With many guests claiming they had ‘the best burger they’ve ever had’ here, it’s no wonder it makes our top ten. The pictures you’ll find on their Facebook page are enough to tempt you into making a pit stop.

Bonner Str. 43
Phone: +49 221 37627775


Image credit: designsquad, flickr

Image credit: designsquad, flickr


Zippiri Gourmetwerkstatt & Wein-Bar

A little Italian restaurant with fabulous food and great service, if you fancy a slice of Italian cuisine during your break in Cologne, this is a great place to try.

Riehlerstr. 73
50668 Köln
Phone: +49 221 92299584


Image credit: Cucino di Te, Flickr

Image credit: Cucino di Te, Flickr


Gilden im Zims

For something a little more than just food, visit this beautiful historic gastropub that’s more than 550 years old. Here you’ll experience great, traditional food, refreshing Kölsch and a helping of German history all in one place.

Heumarkt 77
50667 Köln
Phone: +49 221 16866110


Image credit: Raymond - Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Raymond – Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons 



Located inside Excelsior Hotel Ernst, a 5* hotel in Cologne, its restaurant is just that – 5*. With spectacular gourmet dishes on offer, this is a great place to dine if you’re partial to meat and fish.

Trankgasse 1-5 / Domplatz
50667 Köln
Phone: +49 (0) 221 270 1


Zen Japanese restaurant

For a taste of Japan during your break in Cologne, choose from Zen’s extensive Japanese menu and enjoy the taste of exquisite tempura, ura maki and sashimi dishes.

Bachemer Str. 236
50935 Köln
Phone: +49 (221) 2828 5755


Image credit: kanonn, Flickr

Image credit: kanonn, Flickr

Ristorante Al Solito Posto

Eat pizza and pasta until your heart’s content at this small and rather quaint restaurant. Fresh, homemade sauces compliment their Italian specialities and they’re also very reasonably priced – an ideal place for a quick spot of lunch.

Wattstraße 9
51105 Köln
Phone:  +49 221 16877018


Image credit: Matthew Kenwrick, Flickr

Image credit: Matthew Kenwrick, Flickr

Gast und Weinhaus Brungs

This is a great restaurant to experience authentic German cuisine and sample beautiful wines from their 14th century cellar. Using local ingredients, you can choose traditional dishes such as Bratwurst, or Italian options are also available.

Marsplatz 3-5
50667 Köln
Phone: +49 221 2581666

Website (only in German):

Image credit: Oxfordian Kissuth, Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Oxfordian Kissuth, Wikimedia Commons 

Gilden Brauhaus

If you’re looking for a traditional German Brauhaus with a cosy and rustic atmosphere, then add Gilden Brauhaus to your itinerary. Enjoy a refreshing glass of fresh local beer (Gilden Kölsch) and choose a dish from the daily menu – Thursdays include Jägerschnitzel, or head down on a Wednesday for traditional Bratwurst.

Clevischer ring 121
51063 Köln
Phone: +49 221 6406339


Image credit: Raimond Spekkin, Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Raimond Spekkin, Wikimedia Commons 


Described as a ‘hidden gem’, this restaurant is off the tourist track and popular with locals. It’s ideal for lunch or dinner, and the extensive menu has something to suit everyone, why not finish your meal with tasty apple pancakes with cinnamon? It’s also worth noting you might want to make a reservation here, as it does get very busy.

Im Sionstal 2
50678 Köln
Phone: +49 221 99701230


Image credit: Jeffreyw, Flickr

Image credit: Jeffreyw, Flickr


If this has inspired you to explore all the culinary delights that Cologne has to offer, you can book your very own holiday to Cologne through Great Escapes.


Discover the history of Cologne

A self-drive or Eurostar holiday to Cologne will introduce visitors to a city boasting a wealth of historical and cultural attractions. This should come as no surprise; the city holds a history spanning over 2,000 years and amazingly several cultural monuments dating from the city’s early years are still standing today. You’ll discover them stood beside medieval and modern landmarks, all combining to showcase a city of immense affluence and intrigue.

Given the history of Cologne, you’ll find an endless list of attractions, sites and stories to discover during your city break. To help you connect with the most fascinating elements of Cologne, we’ve put together a timeline of the city’s fascinating history and culture.

Roman Cologne

There is a long history of Romans residing beside the River Rhine, a history that Cologne has been a significant part of. Several signs of the Roman civilisation can be found in the city, from the Roman foundations beneath the City Hall, the famed Roman Tower which was built in the first century AD and the Weidener Grabkammer burial chamber which contains spectacular furnishings. For the best insight and information into the city’s Roman era, look no further than a visit to the fantastic Roman-German Museum.

The Cathedral

Arguably one of the most prominent landmarks in the history of Cologne, Cologne Cathedral towers above the Old Town, offering panoramic views from 157 metres up across the roofs of the city. The first stone was laid in 1248, though the cathedral as it stands today wasn’t completed until 1880. Miraculously, the cathedral survived heavy bombing during WWII and today the building is maintained and resorted by a team of 80 stonemasons, glaziers, roofers and several other specialists.

Image source: Kolntourismus

Image source: Kolntourismus

Romanic Churches

Touring the many Romanic churches found across the city is easily one of the top things to do in Cologne. There are twelve Romanic churches that contribute to the culture and history of Cologne, from St. Andreas and magnificent St. Gereon to charming St. Maria Capitol and the towering Groß St. Martin (pictured below).

Image source: Kolntourismus

Image source: Kolntourismus

The Old Town and Medieval Cologne

Picturesque charm resonates throughout Cologne’s Old Town. Over 70% of the city was destroyed during WWII, but much of the breath-taking medieval architecture and buildings were rebuilt to their original appearance. Today, one of the best places to enjoy the atmosphere of the Old Town is over a glass of Kölsch – a traditional Cologne beer – off the cobbled medieval streets of Heumarkt.

Image source: Kolntourismus

Image source: Kolntourismus

Hohenzollern Bridge

Cologne’s iconic bridge provides passage across the River Rhine, while also simultaneously blending history and modern culture. The bridge was built in 1907 and then rebuilt after WWII, reopened to the public in 1948. It is a proud feat of German engineering, but for many today, the bridge is perhaps best known for its ‘love lock’ tradition. This involves tens of thousands of padlocks being secured to the bridge by different couples, symbolising their love. It is estimated that the padlocks have added over two tonnes of weight to the bridge!

Image source: Kolntourismus

Image source: Kolntourismus

Modern Cologne

The modern day city holds another important chapter in the history of Cologne and its captivating culture. The city has become a haven for shoppers with one of Europe’s biggest shopping areas, found along Hohe Straße and Schildergasse, just a stone’s throw from the city’s cathedral. Art lovers will also revel in the opportunities presented by Cologne, especially via the world-famous Museum Ludwig and the ART Cologne festival held every April. Koelner Zoo is another famous modern day resident of the city, popular with tourists and locals alike. Cologne is also recognised for its diversity and acceptance of different cultures, famed as being one of the most gay-friendly cities in Europe.

Image source: Kolntourismus

Image source: Kolntourismus

Read more about Cologne via our informative guide.

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Tis the season…

Christmas has finally arrived! So we wanted to treat you all to a compilation of beautiful Christmas photos from around Europe – a mixture of food and drink, markets and lights – arguably all the best things about this wonderfully festive time of the year.

So let’s make a start with a classic Christmas in Paris, the city of love…

You can’t really beat the gorgeous Eiffel Tower, covered in a glistening layer of snow, a beautiful backdrop to a very festive looking carousel.

19649_10729249_Serenity Use Only PARIS

As you can see, Galeries Lafayette knows exactly how to decorate for Christmas and keep up an ambience of class.



I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing more magical than wandering around a Christmas market, mulled wine in hand, looking at all the trinkets and gifts on sale. And in the snow, it couldn’t be much more festive!


As we all know, it’s not just Paris that are skilled in adding that little (or large) festive touch…

Lille, France is a dab hand at adding a touch of bling to their architecture.

36029_1527548_Serenity Use Only LILLE

And Reims looks stunning when the markets start to pop up, coating areas of the city in lights.

41800_2410200_Serenity Use and PR REIMS, FRANCE

Now let’s take a stop next door to Belgium, and see the handsome buildings of Grand Place, in the central square of Brussels take your breath away…

29884_4952045_Other.. BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

And definitely not forgetting one of the best activities associated with this time of year, ice-skating! Take to the ice in one of Belgium’s Flemish Christmas markets.

41861_3004552_Serenity_&_3rd_Party BELGIUM

Once you’ve spent the evening picking yourself up off the ice and probably feeling rather worn out, a Rakomelo is certainly well deserved. Actually a traditional Greek beverage, its warm, sweet (and alcoholic) taste will be sure to go down a treat – only for adults though, sorry kids!

29876_9852454_Other.. BELGIUM

So moving along again, this time to Deutschland, we’ve found that Cologne is a trinket buyer’s paradise. With gifts galore and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs to look at, we couldn’t not feature it in this blog.

Here’s a rather unique stall at one of the markets:

34020_3260416_Serenity Use and PR COLOGNE

Now here’s the bigger picture for you…

34017_3024171_Serenity_Use_and_PR COLOGNE

And the ice-skating rink looks perfect for a family friendly race (if you can stay on your feet of course).

Blick auf die große Eisbahn auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt "Heimat der Heinzel" auf dem Heumarkt in der Altstadt Köln, im Vordergrund das Reiterdenkmal, im Hintergrund Dom und Groß St. Martin.

Our final stop on this festive tour takes us to a little place called Amsterdam, which embraces the Christmas spirit in a delightfully cultural way.

The most impressive perhaps, is this Christmas tree made of bicycles:

4205497257_94c8df9078_o AMSTERDAM

Image credit: Xavier Vergés, Flickr

We then have performances from the ‘World Christmas Circus’, which is a festive tradition in Amsterdam.

3166681145_499af3273e_o AMSTERDAM

Image credit: DirkJan Ranzijn, Flickr

And finally, I can’t think of a better way to round up these images than with a drink, and better yet – a Christmas drink! Delirium Christmas, a festive Belgian beer will send your taste buds tingling with hints of fruit, spices, caramel malt and candied orange. You can buy a bottle or two here.


Image credit: Hideyuki Kamon, Flickr

We hope you’ve enjoyed our mini festive tour around Europe, and are now well and truly in the Christmas spirit!

So now’s the time to go and get your favourite festive drink, a mince pie or two, put your feet up and await tomorrow’s fun and food filled day.

From everyone at Great Escapes, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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New Year in Cologne

If you’ve ever been to Cologne, you’ll already know that it’s a beautiful city and a great place to visit at any time of the year. But what about heading over to celebrate the New Year? We’ve looked at different events and activities that you can find in Cologne on 31st December, which we hope will inspire you to take a trip…

Fireworks display

Find a spot along the riverbank of the Rhine or one of the bridges for the best view of these spectacular midnight fireworks. Be sure to get a spot fairly early, as it gets quite busy later into the evening.


River cruise on the Rhine

With a selection of boats to choose from, all with a different party style, you can watch the magnificent fireworks display while cruising along the river Rhine. Setting sail in the early evening, you can take your pick between a night of live performances, including authentic Cologne music or 70s and 80s, just to name a few. You can book a river cruise here.

Visit the Old Town

Explore the historic old town, where you can find lots of little shops down meandering streets and eye-catching colourful buildings – a lot of which were rebuilt after the Second World War.


Image credit: Charlie Dave

Live music

If you’re more interested in a beer-and-a-band kind of evening, make your way down to the Lanxess Arena, get a traditional Kölsch beer and enjoy the evening’s entertainment. This year a band formed in 1970 titled “Bläck Fööss” will be gracing the stage.

Panorama Cologne Triangle

Although the building isn’t open to watch the late night fireworks, it’s still worth a visit, as from here (for those of you who don’t mind heights) you can see a panoramic view of the city from 29 floors up, which will no doubt look incredible when lit up at night. Find out more about booking a ticket here.

Köln Panorama

If you’d like more information about short breaks to Cologne, or would like to book a trip, pay a visit to our website.


Top 10 things to do in Cologne

Those embarking on a break to Germany’s fourth-largest city will encounter a medley of attractions to explore. Whether it’s masterful architecture, world-class shopping or culinary indulgence you’re looking for, there are countless things to do in Cologne to keep your city break brimming with adventure and discovery. From its Roman history to its modern day flamboyance, you can discover Cologne through our self-drive and Eurostar breaks.

Climb Cologne Cathedral

Cologne’s cathedral is arguably the city’s most iconic inhabitant. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is Germany’s largest cathedral, taking a remarkable 600 years to build. You can climb the famed twin spires (if your legs feel strong enough!) and admire wonderful views of the city from the top.

Image credit: afcone

Image credit: afcone

Relax in the city’s Botanical Gardens

Presenting an oasis of calm within a busy city, relaxing in the Flora and Botanical Garden is the best way to rest up during Cologne city breaks. The gardens cultivates up to 10,000 types of plants, including tropical rainforest species in its popular Main Greenhouse.

Image credit: Glasseyes view

Image credit: Glasseyes view

Stroll across Hohenzollern Bridge

Adorned with thousands of ‘love locks’ and spanning the width of the River Rhine, Hohenzollern Bridge presents the ideal vantage point for that perfect photo of Cologne’s impressive skyline.

Image credit: Ulrich Peters

Image credit: Ulrich Peters

Hit the shops along Schildergasse

Those hoping to achieve a dose of retail therapy during their trip will be pleased to know that shopping is among the most achievable Cologne attractions. From high-street powerhouses to quirky boutiques, your money will go further along bustling Schildergasse. If you’ve come on a self-drive holiday to Cologne, make sure there’s room in the boot for your shopping bags!

Image credit: R/DV/RS

Image credit: R/DV/RS

Sip on Kolsch beer in the Altstadt

Germany is famed for its unique and diverse array of beers, but many may be unfamiliar with Cologne’s famous brew. Kolsch is the city’s very own style of beer, served in its largest quantities in the bars and eateries set around the Altstadt.

Image credit: Daniel Farrell

Image credit: Daniel Farrell

Marvel at city views from the KolnTriangle

For the best possible view of the city and its skyline, ascending to the top of the KolnTriangle is one of the most rewarding things to do in Cologne. The rooftop viewing platform sits at a height of 100m, presenting unbeatable panoramas.

Image credit: Georgie Pauwels

Image credit: Georgie Pauwels

Explore the Ludwig Museum

Featuring eye-catching Pop Art and one of Europe’s largest Picasso collections, The Ludwig Museum is a must-see for any art lover looking to get a cultural fix during Cologne city breaks.

Image credit: Markus Goller

Image credit: Markus Goller

Check out the Christmas Market

Unfortunately on offer only to those who venture to Cologne in the winter – from 23rd November to 23rd December to be precise – Cologne’s expansive Christmas Market is among the finest in the world. The best site is set below the cathedral, featuring row upon row of Christmas stalls and festive entertainment. If you fancy festivities elsewhere in Europe, there are a range of fantastic Christmas Markets in the likes of Belgium and France.

Image credit: Andy Walker

Image credit: Andy Walker

Indulge at the Chocolate Museum

One for the chocoholics indeed, Cologne’s Chocolate Museum is essentially a pilgrimage site for those with a sweet tooth. Don’t hold back on the free samples or in the museum shop.

Image credit: Andy Walker

Image credit: Daniel Farrell

Take a boat trip along the Rhine

Floating along one of Europe’s most iconic rivers, whether on a classy cruise or a sightseeing tour, is one of the best ways to end a city break in Cologne. From the waters of the Rhine you can enjoy a unique perspective of the city.

Image credit: Rolf Heinrich, Koln

Image credit: Rolf Heinrich, Koln

For more information about short breaks from the UK to Cologne please visit our website,

Please feel free to share your top Cologne tips with us by commenting below.


New destinations for great escapes: Amsterdam and Cologne

Last month we launched our new brochure for 2015 featuring self-drive and Eurostar breaks to Northern France and Belgium with two new destinations being featured, namely Amsterdam and Cologne. Both cities are easily reached by Eurostar, via Brussels with onward high-speed train connections and make great short break destinations.


Amsterdam is one of the liveliest and most cosmopolitan cities in Europe and its compact size means you can see most of the main attractions on foot, or even by bicycle, in just a few days.

36065_16881239_Serenity Use Only Photography credit: Kavalenkava Volha / Shutterstock

Possibly the city’s most distinguishing feature are the warehouses and elegant homes of the 17th century merchants from Holland’s Golden Age when it was the richest city in the world. These line the 165 canals which are collectively a UNESCO World Heritage site. They are spanned by over 1,000 bridges; that’s even more than Venice.

36057_17624032_Serenity Use OnlyPhotography creidt: S.Borisov / Shutterstock

The city also boasts some 50 museums and art galleries including the Rijksmseum, with its stunning collection of paintings by Dutch masters, the Stedelijk museum of modern art, not to mention the Van Gogh Museum,  as well as Anne Frank’s House, to name but a few. You’ll also find some fabulous markets, great street art as well as street food, a great range of restaurants, cafés and bars with a superb choice of beers. What’s not to love?! Packages are from £64pp. This price is based on one night’s bed & breakfast at the three star West Cord Art Hotel with two sharing a room and return ferry travel for a car and four passengers.


Germany’s fourth-largest city was founded by the Romans in 38 BC. Today it is one of the most diverse cities in Europe with a never ending list of attractions. On a walk around town you’ll discover an ancient Roman wall, medieval churches, avant-garde buildings and  a new postmodern quarter right on the Rhine.  Whether on foot, bicycle or even on a river cruise, Cologne is a beautiful city with its famous cathedral’s twin spires dominating the skyline. In fact the Dom is the country’s largest cathedral and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Remarkably while it was started in 1248, it was not finished for over 600 years later in 1880.

o Haake / KölnTourismus GmbHPhotography credit:  Udo Haake / KölnTourismus GmbH

Cologne, like Amsterdam, is a city for all seasons. Don’t miss the beer halls of the Altstadt (old town) which are lively anytime of year and the fabulous museums and art galleries can also be enjoyed whatever the weather. In spring join in the Carnival and in winter explore the Christmas Market.

Owner Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbHPhotography credit:  Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbH

Packages are available from £66pp. This price is based on one night’s bed & breakfast at the four star NH Cologne City Hotel with two sharing a room and return ferry travel for a car and four passengers.